Uninvolving is the best word to describe for THE IRON LADY, a would-be great biopic about Margaret Thatcher, the first female British prime minister and the longest-serving of the 20th century. Despite a pitch-perfect performance by Meryl Streep as the titular character, THE IRON LADY fails miserably to give us a necessary insight of what makes Thatcher as one of the most controversial and powerful figures of the modern generation other than providing a sketchy and basic outline from what we already knew in general term.
Told in flashbacks, the movie begins with a frail-looking and elderly Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) as she goes through a state of dementia while hallucinating about her deceased husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent) regularly about her failures and successes during her term as an active politician. Her life story begins as a young Margaret Roberts (Alexandra Roach), the ambitious daughter of a family of grocers who is subsequently accepted into Oxford university. Unlike most regular girls, she is a unique kind who is unafraid to speak her mind. As a result, she worked her way up successfully into Parliament as the first lady to do so, and gradually became an education secretary. After marrying her long-time sweetheart Dennis (Harry Lloyd in younger years), she vows not to become an ordinary housewife who dedicate her time washing dishes, preparing meals and look after the kids but a woman who will embrace her destiny to make a world difference in the political arena. And so, by the age of 53, Margaret has successfully becoming the first female Prime Minister of Britain.
As mentioned earlier, Streep is a spot-on for a role of her lifetime. Her accent is flawless, and she does bears an uncanny resemblance to the real-life Margaret Thatcher. She commands her performance well who switches roles convincingly from a power-hungry and never-say-die Prime Minister to a near-senile old lady on the verge of a mental breakdown. Her many scenes during the twilight years of ongoing hallucination with her deceased husband are well-executed, especially when she and Broadbent act together.
Unfortunately Streep's would-be flawless performance is lack of soul needed to make her character all the more engaging. This is especially faulty since Abi Morgan's screenplay fails squarely to involve us to hook with her character as she has gone through a whirlwind years from her humble beginnings, to her illustrious career as a long-serving British prime minister, right down to her eventual downfall. Everything in the story are glossed over with a mere surface but no depth whatsoever.
Another huge problem upon this lackluster effort is Phyllida Lloyd's uninteresting and pedestrian direction. Despite scoring an international hit together with Streep in 2008's MAMMA MIA!, it's obvious she is more adept in directing movie musical than attempting to make such an important biopic. Apparently she has little clue what makes Thatcher such a prominent figure back then, and all she can does, is slapped over a collection of "greatest hits" of her best-and-worst days in her political career without emphasizing them at all. Sure, there are glimpses of such important events including the IRA bombings, the Falklands war and such, but there are all functioned blindly in quick flashbacks, news footage and soundbites. What's even worse, it's the dreadfully slow-moving pace that constantly ruined the interest of watching this movie. No doubt Phyllida Lloyd is the wrong person for the job.
THE IRON LADY is clearly a colossal misfire. If not for Streep and Broadbent, the movie might have been a full-on bore which is really an embarrassment for a theatrical release.